03 February 2009


for young boys are anywhere but inside.  Have to go to bathroom and you are playing at the SJC?  Just walk out to the lawn and take care of business.  When done, run back in and continue playing.  If you are in the car and cannot stand, Grandma will hold you out the door, when pulled over, to do good 'ol number one.  Sonny telling Frankenstein to pee on the side of a building in Big Daddy is nothing compared to this and it's acceptable.  The same can be said for adults.  Bushes are fine as long as you have a little cover, but there is not much that is very "personal" around here. 

Along the same lines, as I was walking to the SND compound after work to do some more carpentry work, a man came up to greet me.  I have found that the best method is to continue walking and talk.  That prevents a much longer conversation.  We shook hands and said hello and I continued to walk.  Rather than letting go, he just casually transitioned to a hand-hold as he walked with me.  Shocked, I did my best to un-grasp and take something from my pocket (I cannot say what it was, but it was some object).  I have seen and been told that this is common, normal if you will, but I am still not comfortable with another man holding my hand.  Practically, there is no reason to really care, but I cannot divorce my rational thinking from my gut.  It was not an ok thing for me by any means.  I do not think it to be insensitivity.  Rather cultural differences that are nearly impossible to compromise. 

I began cutting what will become a corner chair for the SJC.  Using the saw here is frustrating and exhausting.  The blade is extremely flexible and thus hard to wield in a straight line.  I have improved, but I can only cut slowly to make it stay straight.  I am no expert with saws, I can admit that.  I welcome any advice from someone who may know more than me.  Work before that was pretty average.  The center was busy because David (one of the therapists) was with a child at a hospital.  I helped a bit with play therapy and mostly organized my spreadsheets for data input.  I finished with a bit of filing and then walked to the SND house to cut some wood.

Next to our house and on the way to the SND's there is a school.  As I walked to the SND compound the children were at lunch.  So a few came by to say hello.  When I came home school was just getting out.  Many stay and play soccer with makeshift soccer balls (plastic balls filled with wrapped garbage and anything that can make it kind of hard tied tight), but an equal amount leave.  As I made my way up the hill to the school fence some of the kids passed in a way that has now become the usual up-close Kenyan child interaction.  Right at the moment that you are even with a child or a group, one will say meekly, "How are you?"  They then stop and stare as I crane my neck 150 degrees and respond with, "Good.  How are you?"  Then a chorus of fine.  This interaction string continued till the main gate where a few were making their way out.  The more bold children will want to shake my hand, and as always once one shakes my hand everyone around wants to as well.  I kid you not, once the first one shook my hand children 50 yards from the gate began to sprint to meet me coming from my left, ones on the right scurried over.  At the front two girls who were not with the school made a beeline at me and a girl on the back of her fathers bike asked before jumping off to touch the mzungu. 

It is still overwhelming and humbling to have children drop everything and run to meet me.  I do not mind the children as I walk, but the stares can be a bit off-putting.  The hardest still is being watched as we are at home talking, eating, reading, listening to the radio, or just doing nothing.  On the other hand, adults are become more and more friendly.  The word is out and they think that the mzungu's can solve all of their problems.  Most days I run into a person who wants me to help them in some sort of way.  I am certainly not used to being the person that everyone looks to for help.  Definitely not when it comes to financial and medical problems.  There is a want for help, but areas like Malava are severely undeserved.  Nairobi has its problems, but gets the attention.  With all these aid agencies in Kenya I would be hard pressed to think or find any evidence of one in this area.  That is not to suggest that all should rush out here immediately.  Aid should not be charity.  The giver-receiver dynamic is only damaging to this continent.  However, help can be extended in ways that can cause a positive change at the ground level.  I am not going to make suggestions or guesses as to what that entails at this point.

Good day and Good night.

Addendum - We cooked steak and it is great....things are looking great.